The fabled Orkney Islands boast more pre-historic sites than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Discover the history of the Orkney archipelago, the rugged extremes of Scotland’s northern coastline, Loch Ness and the stunning beauty of the Cairngorm National Park. On this four day tour we’ll have time to discover these Northern Isles and much more besides!
Edinburgh to Loch Ness
We leave Edinburgh behind and travel to Stirling where we make a photo-stop at mighty Stirling Castle. Enjoy the panorama which includes the Wallace Monument and the impressive Ochil Hills as a backdrop. From Stirling we make our way towards Doune, famed for its own castle (of Monty Python’s Holy Grail fame), then onwards to Callander. Here the Lowlands of Scotland give way to the spectacular scenery of the Highlands.
Our scenic drive takes us along the beautiful banks of Loch Lubnaig then on through "bonnie” Strathyre towards Glen Ogle and Glen Dochart. After climbing the "Black Mount” we reach vast wilderness of Rannoch Moor which stretches out ahead of us.
There’s a photo-stop so that we can enjoy the spectacular and dramatic scenery of Glen Coe before making the short journey to Fort William.
Next we explore Glen Mor, better known as The Great Glen, which runs diagonally through the Highlands. This is a picturesque landscape of striking mountains and deep lochs. The famous engineer, Thomas Telford, used the three lochs of the Great Glen to create the Caledonian Canal which links the Irish Sea to the North Sea. We will follow the route of the canal as we journey northwards.
Our home for tonight is in Fort Augustus, situated on the banks of mysterious Loch Ness.
Overnight : Fort Augustus
Loch Ness to Kirkwall, Orkney Isles (2 nights)
Today sees an early start as we drive the entire length of Loch Ness to reach Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands. Along the way there’s sure to be stories of the loch’s most famous resident to be told! From Inverness we travel through the Black Isle, and past Andrew Carnegie's Skibo Castle. From here we drive along the northeast Highland coastline, travelling into some of Scotland's most dramatic scenery. This is some of Europe's oldest landscapes and here we have the chance to see wildlife such as Golden Eagles and red deer.
We board the ferry, crossing the Pentland Firth into the Orkney Archipelago. On our arrival it is a short drive to the famous Italian Chapel where few will fail to be moved by the dedicated workmanship of the Italian prisoners of war who crafted this place of worship from a humble Nissan hut. Their story and many others will be told as we view Scapa Flow, the scene of momentous events during both World Wars.
The Viking stronghold of Kirkwall, is our home for the next 2 nights.
Orkney is home to many outstanding historic treasures and today will be a unique day of discovery. On our itinerary today are visits to Maeshowe *, a magnificent tomb built almost 5,000 years ago and the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle that once comprised of 60 megaliths. Today with 27 stones still standing, some over 5 metres tall, it takes little imagination to visualise the extent of this historic monument.
Uncovered by a storm in 1850 Skara Brae * is one of the best preserved groups of Stone Age houses in Western Europe and our visit will reveal the stone furniture, hearths and drains that present such a remarkable picture of Neolithic life.
The day will finish with a visit to beautiful St Magnus Cathedral, one of Europe’s great architectural achievements and over 800 years old.
Orkney to Edinburgh via Inverness
It’s an early start as we board the ferry and bid a farewell to the Orkney’s. There’s time to explore Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands before travelling the short distance to visit tragic Culloden Moor *. It was here that the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was routed by Government troops in a bloody battle in 1746.
The Cairngorm National Park is Britain’s largest and contains five of Scotland’s six highest peaks. The park provides stunning backdrop to our travels through the Spey Valley then we descend through the Drumochter Pass to reach the pleasant Victorian tourist town of Pitlochry where we will stop for refreshments.
The dramatic scenery of Highland Perthshire gives way to rolling farmland as we reach the "Fair City” of Perth then we join the motorway for our journey through the ancient Kingdom of Fife. The final part of our drive offers wonderful views of the Forth Rail Bridge as we make our way into Edinburgh.
* Admission fees extra